A man claims his condo discriminated against him because he’s gay, and a county investigation backed up those claims, but the condo appears to have ignored the report’s recommendations. It’s tonight’s Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
Michael Carrato is not the biggest person in the world, but he certainly has a big heart.
Michael Carrato: “I’ll do whatever I can to help people.”
Michael is a hairdresser, goes to school full time, then volunteers to help people who are troubled.
Michael Carrato: “I mainly focus on addiction.”
Michael says growing up as a gay man in Miami was not easy for him, and those hurdles inspire him today.
Michael Carrato: “And I was able to make it out of that and make a successful career for my life. I feel like if I can do it, I can be an advocate for other people.”
Then he moved to Palm Bay Condominiums.
Michael Carrato: “I have never been in an environment like this.”
Michael said it began when he heard a board member talking on the phone to the property manager about whether or not to accept Michael as an owner.
Michael Carrato: “To the manager, ‘What does he look like?’ And I said, ‘It’s none of his business.'”
Michael says he concluded it was because he is gay.
Michael Carrato: “I think they’re discriminating because they’re an older generation that doesn’t accept gay people.”
The board did approve him, but Michael said he was assigned a parking space far from the entrance. Michael’s doctor wrote a letter saying he needed a handicapped space near the entrance.
Michael Carrato: “Not only for myself but for the general population that come into the building.”
Michael said the board rejected his request, and the verbal attacks continued.
Michael Carrato: “It’s just so not right to treat people like that.”
Michael then filed a complaint with the Miami-Dade Human Rights Commission.
They interviewed witnesses and wrote the board had created a hostile living environment and had discriminated against Michael based on his sexual orientation.
They recommended Michael get an assigned disabled parking space, and the board should receive training regarding discriminatory practices. The response?
Patrick Fraser: “And nothing came from the board, their attorney, the property manager, nothing?”
Michael Carrato: “It’s as if nothing happened.”
Michael said when he tried to contact board members about the report, the property manager sent this email to all the residents.
Michael Carrato: “I just got an email that if I contact the board, I am going to be fined.”
Clearly not what Michael wants to come home to after long days of work and counseling.
Michael Carrato: “It’s just been so unsettling and sleepless nights and not feeling safe.”
Well Howard, legally, how does this work?
Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: “First, the board will have to follow the commission’s recommendations or a judge will order them to, and the key here is the conclusion that the board created a hostile living environment that resulted in Michael being discriminated against because of his sexuality and his disability. A board is supposed to protect its residents, not discriminate against them.”
I spoke to one board member who said Michael is absolutely wrong when accusing him of discrimination.
He said his daughter is gay, and he is a proud supporter of LGBTQ people.
He said when he asked what Michael looked like, he was referring to his credit score and background check. He added Michael misconstrues things.
The board attorney accused Michael of initiating a hateful and threatening campaign against the board, and he is asking the county to reopen their investigation, saying the law firm missed the deadline to appeal because of excusable neglect, and that the firm’s lawyers handling the case were on vacation when the deadline passed.
The county has told me you cannot appeal a missed deadline, but they would be happy to mediate a solution.
Michael Carrato: “A neighbor of mine felt sorry for me because my parking was way down on the water.”
A resident swapped parking spaces with Michael to get him closer to the entrance. In return, he cuts her hair.
Two people helping each other, what Michael loves.
Michael Carrato: “Have justice for everybody.”
Patrick Fraser: “That’s a little idealistic.”
Michael Carrato: “That’s my core belief, and I’ll do what I can in my lifetime.”
Maybe we should all be a little more idealistic and less cynical.
Now, if you think you have been discriminated against, whether it’s your job or trying to find housing, the link to file the complaints are under this Help Me Howard story. We will let you know what the board finally decides to do regarding Michael.
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TO FILE DISCRIMINATION COMPLAINT:
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